“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.’s scorn for ‘white moderates’ in his Birmingham jail letter)

This is my favorite quote by MLK and one that I think about a lot on MLK day when I see other white people a bit more motivated to demonstrate their support for social progress than they are in their daily actions. I’m pretty sure if you compared the frenzy they have on “Black Friday” to their MLK posts, the former wouldn’t suggest they are concerned for their fellow man.

This is a quote I try to remember and think about, to check myself as a white liberal or moderate. To remember that while society gives me more privilege than a black person, it does not mean I am qualified to comment on social justice progress I can choose to support–that I have to resist falling into the “white savior” trap and listen more than I talk, and think about how passive goodwill is an easy out for me and of little help to oppressed groups.

***The quote in the featured image isn’t quite related to the post but I think another good point MLK made. Although I know the factors and societal forces (racism and that propaganda of an “American Dream”) that motivate poor white people to support their oppressors (rich white people), it’s hard to fathom why they vote against their own interest and don’t see they have far more in common with another oppressed group (especially one controlled economically) than they do to rich white men who pander to them.

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